A Really Big Lunch by Jim Harrison - Read Online
A Really Big Lunch
0% of A Really Big Lunch completed




[A] culinary combo plate of Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Julian Schnabel, and Sam Peckinpah . . . Harrison writes with enough force to make your knees buckle and with infectious zeal that makes you turn the pages hungry for more . . . Jim Harrison has staked out a distinctive place in the world of food writing.”Jane and Michael Stern, New York Times Book Review on The Raw and the Cooked

New York Times bestselling author Jim Harrison was one of this country’s most beloved writers, a muscular, brilliantly economic stylist with a salty wisdom. He also wrote some of the best essays on food around, earning praise as the poet laureate of appetite” (Dallas Morning News). A Really Big Lunch, to be published on the one-year anniversary of Harrison’s death, collects many of his food pieces for the first timeand taps into his larger-than-life appetite with wit and verve.

Jim Harrison’s legendary gourmandise is on full display in A Really Big Lunch. From the titular New Yorker piece about a French lunch that went to thirty-seven courses, to pieces from Brick, Playboy, Kermit Lynch Newsletter, and more on the relationship between hunter and prey, or the obscure language of wine reviews, A Really Big Lunch is shot through with Harrison’s pointed aperçus and keen delight in the pleasures of the senses. And between the lines the pieces give glimpses of Harrison’s life over the last three decades. A Really Big Lunch is a literary delight that will satisfy every appetite.

Harrison is the American Rabelais, and he is at his irreverent and excessive best in this collection.” John Skowles, San Diego Union-Tribune on The Raw and the Cooked
Published: Grove Press on
ISBN: 9780802189448
List price: $26.00
Availability for A Really Big Lunch: The Roving Gourmand on Food and Life
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.


Book Preview

A Really Big Lunch - Jim Harrison

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1


Also by Jim Harrison


Wolf: A False Memoir

A Good Day to Die


Legends of the Fall




The Woman Lit by Fireflies


The Road Home

The Beast God Forgot to Invent

True North

The Summer He Didn’t Die

Returning to Earth

The English Major

The Farmer’s Daughter

The Great Leader

The River Swimmer

Brown Dog

The Big Seven

The Ancient Minstrel


The Boy Who Ran to the Woods


Plain Song


Outlyer and Ghazals

Letters to Yesenin

Returning to Earth

Selected & New Poems: 1961–1981

The Theory & Practice of Rivers and New Poems

After Ikkyū and Other Poems

The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems

Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry, with Ted Kooser

Saving Daylight

In Search of Small Gods

Songs of Unreason

Dead Man’s Float


Just Before Dark: Collected Nonfiction

The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand


Off to the Side



Jim Harrison

With an Introduction by

Mario Batali

Grove Press

New York

Copyright © 2017 by the James T. Harrison Trust

Introduction © 2017 by Mario Batali

The pieces collected in this volume have originally appeared in Smoke Signals, the Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant newsletter, Brick, New Yorker, Martha Stewart Living, Playboy, Edible Baja Arizona, Big Sky Cooking by Meredith Brokaw and Ellen Wright, The Montana Writers’ Cookbook by the Montana Center for the Book and the Montana Committee for the Humanities, and Molto Italiano by Mario Batali.

Permission to print Jim Harrison’s poems Time (from Saving Daylight), Poet Warning, Broom (both from Songs of Unreason), and Pain (2), Galactic (both from Dead Man’s Float) is granted by Copper Canyon Press and the James T. Harrison Trust.

Permission to print Mario Batali’s recipe for Duck Scaloppine with Dried Cherries and Grappa (p. 88) is granted by Mario Batali.

Permission to print the Merrill Gilfillan poem The Good World (p. 187) is granted by Merrill Gilfillan.

Permission to print the original menu from the really big lunch (Carte, pp. 69–81) is granted by Gérard Oberlé.

We were unable to confirm the spelling of Damien B.’s last name so it has been abbreviated on page 72. No offense is intended.

Thank you to Gérard Oberlé for proofreading the French portion of this text.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of such without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or anthology, should send inquiries to Grove Atlantic, 154 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011 or permissions@groveatlantic.com.

First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition: March 2017

Published simultaneously in Canada

Printed in the United States of America

ISBN 978-0-8021-2646-7

eISBN 978-0-8021-8944-8

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is available for this title.

Grove Press

an imprint of Grove Atlantic

154 West 14th Street

New York, NY 10011

Distributed by Publishers Group West



Introduction by Mario Batali

Eat Your Heart Out

(Smoke Signals, 1981)

Food for Thought

(Smoke Signals, 1982)

The Dead Food Scrolls

(Smoke Signals, 1983)

The Vivid Diet

(Unpublished, 1986)


(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 1995)

Wine Notes

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2002)

Is Winemaking an Art?

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2002)

My Problems with White Wine

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2002)

Eat or Die

(Brick, 2003)

Paris Rebellion

(Brick, 2003)

Odious Comparisons

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2004)

Wine Criticism and Literary Criticism (Part II)

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2004)

Food, Sex, and Death

(Brick, 2004)

A Really Big Lunch

(New Yorker, 2004)



(Brick, 2004)


(Molto Italiano, 2005)

Wine Strategies

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2005)

Resuming the Pleasure

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2005)


(Brick, 2005)

Bear Posole

(The Montana Writers’ Cookbook, 2005)

Food, Fitness, and Death

(Brick, 2005)

The Fisherman Gourmand

(Big Sky Cooking, 2006)

Food and Mood

(Brick, 2006)

Vin Blanc

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2006)

Eternity and Food

(Brick, 2006)

The Spirit of Wine

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2007)

Here I Stand for a Few Minutes

(Brick, 2007)

One Good Thing Leads to Another

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2007)

Don’t Go Out Over Your Head

(Brick, 2007)

Rage and Appetite

(Brick, 2008)

Close to the Bone

(Martha Stewart Living, 2008)

Food, Finance, and Spirit

(Brick, 2009)

The Body Is a Temple

(Brick, 2009)

Food and Music

(Brick, 2010)

The Arts Versus Food and Birds

(Brick, 2010)

Wine and Poetry

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 2010)


(Brick, 2011)

Chef English Major

(Playboy, June 2011)

The Logic of Birds and Fishes As It Relates to Shingles

(Brick, 2011)


(Brick, 2012)

Courage and Survival

(Brick, 2013)

San Rafael

(Brick, 2013)

Eat Where You Live

(Edible Baja Arizona, 2014)

Gramps le Fou

(Brick, 2014)

Truly Older

(Brick, 2014)

Real Old Food

(Brick, 2015)

Everyday Life: The Question of Zen

(Brick, 2001)

Photo Credits


One night back in 2000, a beleaguered author not so hot on the idea of any book tour, but who was nevertheless on a book tour, appeared at my restaurant Babbo in New York. Jim Harrison and I had written letters to each other, but had never met, and little did I know then how he would go on to become one of my closest friends. In tow were a few members of his publishing team, a book editor from the New York Times, and a handful of other lucky food lovers from NYC. Jim was hungry, thirsty, joyously friendly, and characteristically overeager for the first course to come out of the kitchen. Jim’s appetite was legendary, and nothing makes a cook quite so happy as someone who exists entirely to eat—and when not eating, to talk about eating, to hunt and fish for things to eat, or to spend time after eating talking about what we just ate.

That night we ate just about every non-grocery-store cut of every animal I served. The meal ran to fifteen courses: from one of Jim’s favorites, our Babbo-made testa, with my dad’s finocchiona and culatello, to lamb’s tongue vinaigrette, tripe in the style of Parma, and both beef cheek and calf’s brains raviolis; from light love letters of goose liver, crispy sweetbreads dusted in fennel pollen and finished with duck bacon and membrillo vinaigrette, on to squab with barlotto, quail with salsify, and duck with brovada; finishing with a whole series of desserts. Jim relished in the unabashed frivolity of this meal; he would talk about tripe, sure enough, there it came, and a tale of hunting would beget the birds shot in the story. We drank ’82 and ’85 Barolos, both in magnum, then a double mag of Le Pergole Torte then back to the north for some Gaja Barbaresco with which we ate a couple robiolas and a mountain gorgonzola with housemade black truffle honey.

Our friendship moved from pen pals to real pals that night, and I knew I had finally shaken hands, shared abrazos fuertes and broken bread with not only an eternal friend but a mentor, a spiritual leader, a confidant, and a man who shared my passion for all things above and beyond the world of food, and who wrote sentences that stretched beyond the wildest poetry of my imagination, resonating with stories of the friends and associates who eat well, drink Lambrusco and vin de pays as well as Bordeaux from the fifties and sixties, work hard, play hard, and experience the natural world in full.

A couple of years later, after a mere ten-course meal celebrating the magnificent white truffle at Babbo, I walked Jim back to his hotel. He stayed regularly at the Inn at Irving Place near Gramercy Park, a charming hotel that allowed smoking—a deal breaker for Jim—and was close to the Spanish restaurant that our team opened in 2003, Casa Mono. It was after 11 pm, closing time, and we had consumed as much food as was humanly possible. We discussed his obsession with Antonio Machado the entire walk home. As we turned the corner to his hotel, Jim peered into the candlelit Casa Mono and then leaned in. Mario, do you think we could just get a little taste of those fabulous oxtails in piquillo peppers you do here on a little bread, just for the taste in my mouth, please? Just a taste, he bashfully whispered, it reminds me of Lorca.

You bet, Jimmy, I said. And a quick little bottle of Priorat to wash it all down, five American Spirits on the stoop, and off to bed. I have never seen a man so happy in his pursuit of pleasure that evening. And from that moment on, we were friends for life.

Jim and I shared many qualities: an unending appetite, inhaling life to the full chorizo, finding hilarious and playful nuance in every breath and every moment, but I always was and remain the student. Jim was sharper, more in tune with the distant cry of the loon over the lake while fishing on a lazy Tuesday morning, more sensitive to the moonlight over Washington Square Park on a dusk walk toward the Babbo apartment, where he sometimes stayed. Jim lived art not as a method to distill his thoughts, but as a categorical way of under­standing life, a quest to quench an insatiable thirst for all it put before him. And to share that understanding with any and every one he met.

But Jim was not all Zen, and certainly not patient. We once shared a slightly overlong supper at the Michelin three-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park in New York, where he fidgeted through most of the complex meal, announcing early on in his loud baritone to the entire dining room, Maaaario, you know I am much more of a trattoria kind of guy, and finally sending his chicken back to the kitchen, because the chef had somehow denied him THE FUCKING LEGS . . . where are THE FUCKING LEGS . . . ? When we cooked together he was often at my shoulder with cooking tips and timing questions. Are you going to stir that? or Remember I like it medium rare, not a degree over, damn it, while cooking a three-inch-thick rib eye from Carnevino on his parrilla in Arizona. By the time we were seated he grudgingly admitted to the deliciousness of the meal and to the success of yet another of our collaborations . . . It always gave me infinite joy.

In January of 2016, two months before Jim left us all lonely, we gathered again. This time we were memorializing Linda, Jim’s beloved wife of fifty-six years, at their casita in Patagonia, in Arizona near the Mexican border town Nogales. With a handful of intimate friends and family of Jim and Linda to feed, I set off with a plane full of food and two of Jim’s favorite chefs, Anthony Sasso from Casa Mono and Chris Bianco from Phoenix. We cooked rib eyes, sausage and peppers, paella, and fideuà, ate an entire kilo of Oscietra caviar with an entire jamón de Jabugo, we made drinks for brunch with giant local pomelos. I surprised him with his favorite lunch of all, a glorious Bollito Misto with testa, zampone, brisket, osso buco, tongue, and fresh sausage, all served up with his sauce love, a tangy salsa verde of capers, herbs, chopped cornichons and mustard, the hot one from France he dreamed of daily. Jim was sad; life was hard without his lovely Linda. We ate, we talked, he complained, as he always did, about my taste in music and the volume I played it at while prepping or cleaning up after dinner. We lived hardily that weekend, and we did our best to heal Jim with what we knew he loved most. We spoke of his imminent trip to Paris, of our plans to really dig into our pet project of the last decade called The Search for the Genuine. He plumbed a gem or two from his poetry mind suggesting that cooking for himself was going to lead him to learn to love again, but his heart cried for Linda . . . He was in a dream state, a fugue, a funk . . . I watched him drift off on the patio toward the creek, the birds, grief, and then he’d snap right to when I’d say Jim and hand him a mound of mascarpone, jamón, and caviar; the food and my love helped draw him back toward life. That last weekend I saw him filled my heart with his joy, his immense and remarkable love, his visceral way with words both loving and cross, tangy and salty, sweet, gentle and filled with love of the physical plane.

Jim once wrote of a character, He’s literally taking bites out of the sun, moon, and earth, which is what he himself spent a lifetime doing. Damn he was my hero.

—Mario Batali

January, 2017

Eat Your Heart Out

As your ass’t food editor and private WATS line to the terre d’edibles I wanted to alert you to certain new developments in the area of hot sauces. (Just yelled at my yellow Labrador who is in the garden eating corn on the cob without salt and butter. Yesterday it was a dozen eggs and a pound of butter left out on the counter.) But before we get to the hot sauce let me make a few divergent points.

No one is allowed to use cocaine before the meal when I cook. Afterward, OK. Cocaine creates a sort of bubble­gum nimbus that slaughters the palate and sensuous capacities, in addition to shrinking the wee-wee and tearing holes in the social fabric.

A warning to certain of your left-leaning, spit-dribbling, eco-freak readers: I kill much of what I eat; ducks, quail, deer, grouse, woodcock, trout, salmon, blue­gills, the lowly carp (Hunanese hot and crispy carp). These people should know that technically speaking their bean sprouts scream when they are jerked out by their roots. Everything living ends up as a turd of sorts.

Numerologically I can’t end up on an even number (2) for private reasons. Spend as much as possible on good food and wine. Last night I drank a 1949 Latour and a 1953 Richebourg because I was depressed about returning to Glitzville (Hollywood). I wept over a Save the Children ad. Then as the great wine surged through my proud veins and emptied into my brainpan I had a long satisfying fantasy about Meryl Streep. How can I help but love you, Jim, she said, I’ve read your ten books and eaten your ten best meals. I guess you could say I’m yours. Then I slipped on my fifty-dollar Key West pig mask and stalked her pealing laughter through the penthouse etc. . . . Her husband was conveniently absent, having become waylaid on a turnip expedition in Washington Heights. O Meryl!

Anyway, hot sauce au point: Richard Schweid’s magnificent Hot Peppers (Madrona Publishers, $6.95) is worth a hundred times its price. Yes the book is worth six hundred ninety five dollars, the exact amount of a quarter ounce of you-know-what. Luckily I got my copy free. Unfortunately, Schweid, the sage of Cajuns and Capsicum, is ignorant of Clancy’s Fancy, a hot sauce manufactured by Colleen Clancy, 630 Oxford, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. Ms. Clancy is a lass steeped in exotic Acadiana. I’ve never met her but her sauce is stopper and neck above the hundreds of sauces I’ve collected from Ethiopia to Ecuador, from cold Leningrad to the steamy fuck-crazed alleys of Bangkok where slant oysters are far more numerous than the fabled Belons, Bon Secours, or the champ Apalachicolas. Jimmy Buffett, the minstrel, uses it in his duck-crab-shrimp gumbo. Sam Lawrence, the publishing tycoon, uses Clancy’s during Key West exercise routines. I use it copiously. Example—a Caribbean stew.

3 lb PORK SPARERIBS (cut to 1-rib pieces)

1 CHICKEN (cut into serving pieces)



7 cloves of GARLIC





1 tsp SUGAR



1 tbsp PAPRIKA

1. Place spareribs in large Dutch oven and cover with water. Cook for 20 minutes, discard water.

2. Place chicken pieces in bottom of Dutch oven and cover with spareribs and pieces of sausage. Add onions.

3. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over mélange.

4. Bake covered for 1 hour and 45 minutes at 300. Spoon off excess fat or suck it off with a straw.

Do not change or substitute! Above my desk hang a crow wing and a pink rubber piglet with a green drake trout fly stuck in its ass, and a coyote tooth in its mouth. I’ve written a new novel called Warlock. You tamper with my recipes at your peril!

Food for Thought

Dear Mike,*

I am so confused and distraught that this will have to serve as my food letter for the upcoming issue. Let’s face it, the twin specters of food and politics loom large these days. On a recent trip to Central America, to cover for my own curiosity the multifaceted revolutions in that area, I frankly ate very well. One particular lunch for instance I had squid stewed in their own ink, braised quail on toast, a soup made entirely of miniature crustaceans, plus a skewer of several lobsters and two bottles of wine. This was extraordinarily cheap because of our advantage in the exchange rate. The cooking was prodigiously adept compared to my recent ten-day trip to New York City where food, lodging, and pharmaceuticals ran about $8,000. I want you to be the first to know that when my next novel is published I’m heading straight to Costa Rica.

You said you were curious about my meals with Orson Welles, who of course, is a bit of a trencherman. The most memorable was at Ma Maison (the restaurant with the unlisted phone number out there in Glitzville). The two of us were accompanied by a beautiful Hungarian countess who left in either boredom or disgust halfway through the meal. You see, Mike, she was slender and could not comprehend our great, sad hearts choked as they are with fatty deposits. Orson began by clearing his palate with a half dozen bull shots in quick succession. As we were hungry the first course was a half pound of fresh caviar with an iced bottle of Stolichnaya. (Politics again! In Palm Beach two years ago a liquor store clerk refused to supply me Stolichnaya because of what the Russians were doing in Afghanistan. I explained to him that the residents of that sorry country of Afghanistan are Muslims and don’t drink vodka. My account was such that I got my vodka.) The next course was a wonderful ragù of sweetbreads in pastry covered by a half quart of black truffle sauce, accompanied by a rare old Burgundy the name of which would mean nothing to the impoverished hippies who read your magazine. Then without a moment’s rest arrived a whole poached Atlantic salmon in a sorrel sauce and a white Bordeaux. At this point the countess wrapped herself in her cape and spun into the night. Her departure enabled me to ask Orson how he managed to snag Rita Hayworth at the top of her form. He said he was in Rio at the time her picture appeared on the cover of Life magazine; he took the next plane to L.A. and literally browbeat her into the marriage bed within ten days. It seems, though, that romantically the great man’s true weakness was for hatcheck girls.

To tell you the truth, I was beginning to lose some of my appetite at this point, my life at the time being submerged in a number of business and romantic failures. My spirits arose however when the next course arrived: an immense platter of slices of rare duck breasts in green peppercorn sauce accompanied by beautifully braised and sculpted root vegetables. With this, quite naturally, we had a very rare Romanée-Conti. I was astounded that Mr. Welles had remembered from the day before over an ample lunch that this was my favorite item, perfected by the great Paul Bocuse before he submerged himself in the cuisine minceur, a method even more fraudulent than psychiatry. This last course nearly put me under and I looked down happily at the record of the meal left on my shirt­front. I rejected the platter of desserts and rushed to the bathroom. A certain unnamed actress had given me a vial of white powder, which she told me I should use to keep awake. I know you can vouch for the fact that I don’t use drugs but this seemed an exceptional occasion. I poured the whole gram on my palm and snorted heavily so that anyone coming in the bathroom might think I was washing my face. I have no memory really about what we talked about other than food and sex.

But back to food and politics. I won’t drink Polish vodka because of the long record of anti-Semitism in that country. I generally avoid German restaurants for the same reason. So I am not without my politics, am I? I avoid the cooking of my motherland, Sweden, because it is a land without garlic, a land without sunshine. I avoid Jewish cooking because it is basically lousy. A certain tribe mentioned in Lévi-Strauss’s The Savage Mind eats bear shit for constipation not political reasons. Perhaps when no one is looking Nancy Reagan licks her new china. I do know that of all Mother Westwind’s children, the mammalian group, man alone cooks. Man alone is capable of looking over a girl’s shoulder while he fucks her at the coffee table laden with fifteen appetizers. He stares into the blank eyes of the Dungeness crab that will be transformed from a delicate sea creature into a mere turd.

How can I answer any of the questions on your questionnaire? All of my dooms are small dooms, the ones, to quote myself, that seem to lurk behind each fence post. Yet your questionnaire is not contemptible nor is my refusal Audenesque; all that fake liberalism warring against the state when it’s still the same fake liberal paying his taxes and marching right along with the other civil servants. I barely ever think of the government anymore even though a few years ago I paid taxes equaling the salaries of four senators. Why they took this money that could have been spent on food, wine, and floozies—exotic travel—beats me. As an instance of the banality of it all I read in this morning’s paper that when confronted with this $100 billion deficit, Reagan told a cute joke about some Negro buying a bottle of vodka with food stamps. This, I think, indicates a constitutional hopelessness in leadership. Another instance I reflected on when I was in Central America: I wondered if there was a single legislator who was familiar in any deeper sense with the history of Latin America. I thought then—probably nope. But enough of this sententiousness. Don’t you find it strange that the true symbol for God, the Buddhist circle, is also the exact shape of a dinner plate. Has this ever occurred to you? The all-knowing father-mother has made us machines of devouring and he has given us heads to figure out what we are going to eat next. Let’s not be ignorant, in terms of mythography, that the sacrament of the Eucharist makes us all vampires. Yes, vampires by proxy. Mike, you should remember that within the unyielding anguish of the writer, it’s always night and you’re always flying solo, and then usually over the Mato Grosso.

Yes, Golden, I went without protein for four days . . . without any form of protein, eating rice and fruit like a Jain. Golden, even that name. Do you realize that if you could get $350 an ounce for your body you would be worth what Barry Manilow makes in one night at a concert? Anyway, I went without any protein for four days, I fell into a depressing trance, I could barely move, my head ached, I was depressed, of course, this the average third world experience. I dreamed of ham, western ham, northern ham, southern ham, not eastern ham. Redeye gravy, the sweet vinegar clove gravy, mashed potatoes, more ham, slabs of ham, juicy ham, dry ham, ham sandwiches, ham croquettes, ham on rye, hamburgers—anything. I wanted it, I wanted it with a desperation akin only to sexual desire. I wanted it like a fifteen-year-old farmboy in 1952 wanted Ava Gardner. All those big words of yours and your questionnaire are meaningless to me. Such polysyllabic words such as God and world are too much for me to handle at this late date. Do you not